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AFTERMATH OF THE 9-11 TERRORIST ATTACK

WHY DO "THEY" HATE THE WEST?

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Topics covered in this essay:

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Quotations from people in the Middle East

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Quotations from people in the West

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Overview: Who hates the West and who doesn't

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About Islam: A very brief introduction to the religion

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Political tensions in the Middle East

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Muslims who have emigrated to the U.S. and Canada

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Members of the Al Qaeda (The Base) organization

Related essays on this web site:
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More details about Islam.

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Comparison of Islam and Christianity.

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Quotations from people in the Middle East:

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"Children are dying, but no one makes a move. Houses are demolished, but no one makes a move. Holy places are desecrated, but no one makes a move.... I am fed up with life in the world of mortals. Find me a hole near you. For a life of dignity is in those holes." Poem written by the Saudi Arabian ambassador to London, addressed to a dead Syrian poet, and published by Al-Hayat, a leading Arabic newspaper.

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"Even small children know that Israel is nothing without America. And here America means F-16, M-16, Apache helicopters, the tools Israelis use to kill us and destroy our homes." Sheikh Abdul Majeed Atta. Hamas member.

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"When you deny justice to people, which you have been doing for several decades in Palestine, and they are intelligent, sensitive people, they are going to find something to do. They might take shelter in Islam, in fatalism, and some will come to despise you." Air Commodore Haider, Pakistani Air Force.

bullet"If violence escalates, you bring seeds and water for terrorism. You kill someone's brother or mother, and you will just get more crazy people." Jamal al-Adimi, a Yemeni lawyer.
bullet"If violence escalates, you bring seeds and water for terrorism. You kill someone's brother or mother, and you will just get more crazy people." Jamal al-Adimi, a Yemeni lawyer. 7

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Quotations from people in the West:

bullet"I think...[that people in the Middle East] hate us because of what we do, and it seems to contradict who we say we are. The major issue that our policy seems to contradict our own basic values." Bruce Lawrence, professor of religion at Duke University.
bullet"Since the Cold War ended, America has talked about promoting democracy. But we don't do anything about it in repressive regimes in the Middle East, so you can understand widespread anti-Americanism there." John Esposito, head of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington.
bullet"When Bush says 'crusade', or that he wants bin Laden 'dead or alive', that is a fatwa (religious edict) without any judicial review. It denies all the principles that America is supposed to be." François Burgat, a French social scientist in Yemen.
bullet"We need value consensus between the West and Islam on democracy and human rights to combat Islamic fundamentalism. We can't do it with bombs and shooting - that will only exacerbate the problem." Bassam Tibi, a professor of international relations at Gottingen University in Germany. 7

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Overview:

A key to answering the question "Why do they hate the west?" is to determine who "they" refers to. This essay will give a brief description of Islam, and cover sources of friction in the Middle East. It will then contrast two totally different views of Islam:

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First: the attitudes of Muslims within the U.S., almost all of whom are loyal Americans who love the country's freedom of belief, religion and assembly.

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Second: the attitude of Osama Bin Laden and members of his Al Qaeda (The Base) organization. They see America as the "Great Satan," which is corrupting the world and must be destroyed by force.

Muslims in the Middle East are divided. A minority supports the terrorists and their attacks on the West. Essentially all of the Islamic governments fear Bin Laden and similar terrorists as a major destabilizing influence on their own regimes and a major threat to world peace and security.

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About Islam:

Islam is the second largest religion in the world, including about 20% of the world's population. This compares to Christianity's 33%. At their current rate of growth, Muslims -- followers of Islam -- are expected to outnumber Christians worldwide, before the year 2020. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) estimates that there are about two million Muslims associated with America's 1,209 masjids (a.k.a. mosques -- Islamic houses of worship). 1  Estimates of the total population of Muslims in the U.S. ranges from "6-7 million" by CAIR to about 3.7 million by some polling groups.

"Islam," comes from word "salam," which means peace. "Muslim" is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the will of God.  They view the Qur'an as the Word of God, revealed to  Muhammad the Prophet (peace be upon him). 2 Muhammad lived from about 570 to 632 CE. They worship "Allah." God's name is derived from an Arabic word which means "the One True God.More details about Islam. A comparison of Islam and Christianity.

Muslims in North America generally view the local media's use of the phrases "Islamic terrorist" and "Muslim terrorist" to be an oxymoron.

The question is often raised whether the terrorists can be considered followers of Islam. Opinion is divided:

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Some say that the terrorists' beliefs and behaviors are so far divorced from the religion of Islam that they are no longer Muslim. Islam forbids the kidnapping of prisoners; it even forbids the killing of unarmed soldiers, let alone innocent civilians.

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Other point out that the terrorists rigorously follow the five pillars of Islam: recitation of the shahadah (creed), performing salat (prayer), fasting during the lunar month of Ramadan, making a hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, and -- for middle and upper class members, the zakat (gift to charity). They believe in Allah, the inerrancy of the Qur'an, Hell, and Paradise. They avoid eating pork and the consuming of alcohol. Thus they are Muslims, even though they represent the most radical, the most extreme form of Fundamentalist Islam.

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Political tensions in the Middle East:

The relationships between the Islamic countries in the Middle East and the West -- particularly the United States -- are complex and multi-faceted. Events which happened many centuries ago still influence present-day politics. 5 Each of the following factors could easily be expanded into a group of essays; we have room only to describe their influence in the most general terms:

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Past historical perspective:
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The West owes a great debt to Islam, because learning flourished in Muslim countries at a time when the Church in the west severely limited scientific and other research. "The Arab world used to be the most literate part of the planet." 11

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Balancing that goodwill has been the long history of conflict between Christian and Islamic countries. Islam once controlled parts of Europe, including, at its greatest extent, part of Spain and Eastern Europe as far west as Vienna. The Roman Catholic Church initiated a number of Crusades between the 11th and 15th centuries CE. These were holy wars in which soldiers of the church attempted to drive Muslims out of the Holy Land -- Palestine. The atrocities committed by Christians during the crusades are still a source of anger among many Muslims to this day.

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First half of the 20th Century:
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Many middle-eastern countries suffered under the colonial rule of European super-powers. Three examples are:
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Following World War I, Britain sub-divided the old Ottoman province of Syria, and created the Kingdom of Jordan. They installed the Hashemite ruling family in power.

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France carved Lebanon out of Syria as an attempt to assure that a majority Maronite Christian state would control much of the formerly Syrian coastline. This was a recipe for disaster as the country's minority Muslim population gradually became dominant.

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Britain imposed a Hashemite monarchy on Iraq and gave the Sunni Muslim minority population control of the country.

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At the time, there was an immense reservoir of good-will towards the U.S. because America was not one of the colonial powers oppressing Muslims.

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America built up more good-will by contributing to education through the establishment of American Universities in Egypt, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

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The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 sent shock waves throughout the Muslim world which continue today. It is commonly referred to as "the catastrophe."

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Second half of the 20th Century:
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Relations between Islamic countries and the U.S. were profoundly affected by the west's cold war on communism. U.S. foreign policy promoted the creation and training of terrorist, gorilla, and military units. Usama Bin Laden's group was originally trained by the CIA.

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The U.S. fought the growth of a pan-Arab nationalism in the region. Rather than supporting it as a cohesive force -- a source of stability -- throughout the Middle East, the U.S. encouraged divisions among Islamic states.

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Some believe that the U.S. government supported Fundamentalist religious movements as an additional mechanism to fragment the Arab world.

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Petro-dollars brought enormous wealth to many Muslim countries. Unfortunately, only Turkey out of the 50 or so Islamic countries involved are democracies. The leaders are generally autocratic, unelected, and not particularly accountable to public opinion. Their governments see no need to be responsive to the needs of their people. Civil liberties are sharply curtailed.

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Political commentator Gynne Dyer writes: "The West created the modern Middle East, from its rotten regimes down to its ridiculous borders, and it did so with contemptuous disregard for the wishes of the local people. It is indeed a problem that most Arab governments are corrupt autocracies that breed hatred and despair in their own people, which then fuels terrorism against the West, but it was the West that created the problem -- and invading Iraq won't solve it. If the U.S. really wants to foster Arab democracy, it might try making all that aid to Egypt conditional on prompt democratic reforms. But I wouldn't hold my breath." 11

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Millions of Palestinian refugees have been created as a result of the 1948 and 1967 wars in Palestine. Yet Muslim states have not accepted many into their countries; the refugees have been trapped in camps for decades. "...throughout the Middle East [many] cherish photos, house keys, and deeds to homes that no longer exist or which have housed Israelis for generations." 7

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Governments in the region tended to invest in major infrastructure projects, but not in education improvements or activities that would bring economic opportunities to the people. Currently, "Almost half of Arabic-speaking women are illiterate." 11

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Some of the countries have made moves towards democratization, and increased participation by the people in government. Turkey remains the only democracy among the 50 or so predominately Muslim countries. The Muslim world generally has few political parties, little press freedom, and few ways to express political dissent.

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In many Arab/Muslim countries, the youth suffer immense frustration, created by high unemployment rates, poverty, lack of education, and lack of hope.  They have little stake in the political system. They are not allowed to demonstrate against their government. Many deflect anger towards the U.S. - a government that they are often allowed to demonstrate against.

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Some Muslims are angry that the U.S. has not spoken out against human rights abuses by those Middle Eastern governments that America  supports. John Voll, professor of Islamic history at Georgetown University commented: "People there [in the Middle East] are convinced citizens in the United States have freedoms others don't have, [and] that the United States is also the chief supporter of suppressing democracy." 9 Walter Denny, professor of art history and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts said: "The most important question we should be asking ourselves is 'Why do you think they hate us so much?' And if you look at our foreign policy that question is not too difficult to answer." He says that the key grievance is hypocrisy. The U.S. has repeatedly sided with authoritarian regimes such as  Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Turkey. These are regimes that grant their citizens few human rights. They have no free press. Denny concluded: "We [the U.S.] don't trust democracy there. We believe stability is better than democracy. But it's a false kind of stability."  9

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In recent years, the U.S. was involved in the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi aggression. They played a major role in ending the genocide against Muslims in Bosnia and the mass crimes against humanity in Kosovo.  This has resulted in a favorable towards the U.S. among Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, and among the Saudis and Kuwaitis. But these feelings never spread to other countries.

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Countering this is the great sympathy that many Muslims in the Middle East have for the Iraqi people who suffered under past U.S. bombing, a U.S. maintained economic blockade, and a U.S.-led invasion.

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Many Muslims object to American culture which has become all-pervasive throughout the world -- particularly among the young. They see it as degenerate and immoral.

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"Moderate Muslims are loath to criticize or debunk the fanaticism of the [Islamic] fundamentalists. Like the moderates in Northern Ireland, they are scared of what would happen to them if they speak their mind." 10

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The Israeli - Palestine problem:  There is a fundamental rule that firefighters use: it is always easier to quench a fire if the source of fuel is first turned off. In the Middle East, the Israeli - PLO conflict is fueling much of the anger, instability, unrest, distrust, hostility, and feelings of victimization in the region.  The U.S. is seen as favoring and supporting Israel. They have given over three billion dollars a year in military and economic aid to Israel. The lack of a peace settlement, the continuing expansion of Jewish settlements in occupied lands, the status of the Dome of the Rock at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem -- the third most sacred spot in Islam -- and the status of the Muslim section in East Jerusalem are major flash points. 5 On 2001-SEP-28, the Infatada (uprising) by the Palestinians against Israel passed its first yearly anniversary. It has resulted in the deaths "of 647 people on the Palestinian side, 177 on the Israeli side," and the wounding of many thousands. 8 "Over the past year, Arab TV stations have broadcast countless pictures of Israeli soldiers shooting at Palestinian youths, Israeli tanks plowing into Palestinian homes, Israeli helicopters rocketing Palestinian streets." 7 Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon commented: "You see this every day, and what do you feel? It hurts me a lot. But for hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, it drives them crazy. They feel humiliated." The ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths has been relatively constant at 3 to 1 ever since.

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The 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City and the Pentagon proved to be a watershed in US - Middle East relations. At the time, Palestinians and Israelis were involved in a small-scale war -- the Intifada. The U.S. had imposed sanctions on Pakistan because of their nuclear bomb activity. Osama Bin Laden had operated freely in Afghanistan. By late 2001-SEP, there were some promising signs. Most of the Muslim governments in the world backed the U.S. in a combined war against terrorism. Under what must have been immense pressure from the U.S., Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Simon Peres reached an temporary agreement. Arafat  promised to reduce the level of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish rhetoric emanating from Palestinian radio, TV and religious centers. He has also promised to arrest and disarm terrorists working in PLO territory. The Israeli government promised to lift the siege of enclaves ruled by the PLO, withdraw his troops, prevent attacks on Palestinians, and -- perhaps most important of all -- to freeze Israeli settlement growth in the occupied area. Unfortunately, these improvements were short-lived.

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The future: Massive problems continue, including: Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas, Palestinian statehood, sovereignty over Jerusalem, and control of the Al-Harem Al-Sharif (temple mount). Al Qaeda, whose influence had been in decline prior to 9-11, has had a new lease on life. They are experiencing a groundswell of support since the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Across the Middle East, a number of factors will continue to feed a mood of resentment towards the West in general and the U.S. in particular: "the injustice done to the Palestinians, the cruelty of continued sanctions against Iraq.... the repressive and corrupt nature of US-backed Gulf governments." 7 A surgical strike might assassinate Ben Laden and his high command. But as long as these major irritants continue, other terrorists will rise to take his place. Al Qaeda is not an organization; it is a philosophy.

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Muslims who have emigrated to the U.S. and Canada:

The vast majority generally love their adopted country. They chose to come here, where they enjoy religious freedom, democracy, economic opportunity, and other benefits that most did not experience in their country of origin. Many have become citizens.

After 9/11 they suffered what they call double anguish:

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Grief at the loss of family members, friends, experienced by themselves and others in the country. There were many dozen or hundreds of innocent Muslims who worked at the World Trade Towers and were killed there during the attack. They have families and friends who weep in mourning. They also are saddened at the pain of the spouses, children, parents, extended family and friends of the approximately 3,000 people from over 45 countries who did not return home on 9/11.

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A feeling of deep hurt because a small minority of Americans consider all Muslims to be responsible for the actions of about 18 kamikaze hijackers and about 30 of their support staff. After the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, the perpetrators were found to be two Christians who were active in a militia group. But nobody blamed all Christians for the acts of two hate-filled members of that faith. Muslims wonder why they are being blamed for the actions of a small number of hate-filled members of their faith.

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Members of the Al Qaeda (The Base) organization:

This is the group headed by Osama Bin Laden. The New York Times reported that "electronic eavesdropping intercepts obtained in the hours after the attacks on the World Trade [Center] and the Pentagon indicated that the terrorist operation was carried out by...[this] militant Islamic organization."

Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia circa 1955. He was trained by the CIA and actively fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. He inherited a massive fortune which he has used to fund his terrorist activities. While in Afghanistan, he encouraged thousands of fighters from Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and other countries to join his struggle. After the Soviets abandoned the war and withdrew from Afghanistan, many of these foreign fighters returned to their countries of origin to destabilize their local regimes. In 1991, during the buildup to the Gulf War, Bin Laden was enraged by the presence in Saudi-Arabia of infidels -- non-Muslims from the West.  That country includes two of the three most holy places in Islam: Mecca and Medina. Bin Laden considers the presence of non-Muslim, American troops to have befouled the land. He sees it as a violation of prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) edict that the feet of infidels must not sully the Ka'ba. The Ka'ba (aka Kabe) is the most holy structure in Islam. It is located in Mecca and is considered to be the center of the world.

He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991 because of anti-government agitation, spent five years in Sudan and then returned to Afghanistan. He has since concentrated his rage against the U.S. He and his group are generally regarded as having been involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; the 1996 killing of 19 U.S. soldiers in Saudi; bombings of U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole in Yemen; the suicide bombing of the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, and other terrorist attacks since. 6

Bin Laden cannot simply be called a Muslim, or a Fundamentalist Muslim. He is a extreme, radical, Fundamentalist Muslim terrorist. Each of these five terms is important. Some of his beliefs and actions are:

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He believes that the world is divided into two: the House of Islam, and the House of War. He views the House of Islam as being permanently at war with the House of War.

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He believes that he has a divine right from God to impose his will on others.

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Whereas almost all Muslims believe that there must be no compulsion in choosing Islam, Bin Laden believes that the West must accept Islam, by force if necessary.

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He has called for a holy war against the U.S.

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He has called on all Muslims to kill any Americans and Jews that they can.

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He is not troubled by "collateral damage" for example of those Muslims who were killed in his terrorist attack in New York City. His reasoning is that some of those killed were good Muslims. Because they died during a holy war, they would be given special treatment in Paradise. Those who were non-observant Muslims would simply be hastened to Hell where they belong.

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References used:

  1. "The Mosque in America: A National Portrait," CAIR, at: http://www.cair-net.org/mosquereport/ This is an Acrobat PDF file. You can obtain a free software to read these files from
  2. Muslims traditionally acknowledge respect for Muhammad, Jesus and other prophets (peace be upon them) by adding this phrase or an abbreviation "pbuh" after their names.
  3. Frank T Griswold III, "Interfaith matters in the aftermath of the events of 11 September," ACNSlist #2704, Anglican Communion Office, London, UK. 2001-SEP-19.
  4. "Act of War - Jihad," Apologetics Resource Center, at: http://www.apologeticsresctr.org/ActofWarJihah.htm

  5. Based on an ABC interview on 2001-SEP-12 hosted by Peter Jennings, and including Haran Ashrawi, representing the PLO; Hisham Melhem, a reporter from Beirut Lebenon; David Makovsky, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Judith Kipper, an ABC Middle Eastern consultant.

  6. "Who is Osama Bin Laden?", BBC News, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/

  7. Peter Ford, "Why do they hate us?" Christian Science Monitor at: http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/

  8. Sandro Contenta, "Conflict hardens Palestinian, Israeli attitudes," Toronto Star, 2001-SEP-28, Page A3

  9. Eric Boehlert, "The media's Islamic blind spot: News reports are obsessing on how the terrorist attacks happened, but not why." at: http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2001/09/25/arabs_media/index.html?

  10. "Chapter III: Enter Religion," Newsweek, at" http://www.msnbc.com/

  11. Gwynne Dyer, "Why tyrants rule Arabs," The Toronto Star, 2004-JUL-20, Page A17.

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Copyright © 2001 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2001-SEP-21
Latest update: 2008-APR-03

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